When I was 10, I shook hands with a Maine governor for the first time at the Maine Lobster Festival. My father John put me up to it. He told me what to do and what would happen.

I shook hands with then-Governor John Reed. He seemed glad to meet me. After all, I was first assistant to Captain ‘Ote Lewis.

From that time on, I would go on to shake hands with almost every Maine governor.

I could not have known the importance of the handshake at that age. It looked like a thing grown-ups did. As I grew up, I was OK at it.

In Rockland District High School, I got a formal introduction to the practice of the handshake from my teacher Bill Hopkins. He was from Vinalhaven, father of Eric Hopkins the artist. Mr. Hopkins moved outside the lesson plan to teach us some very practical skills, like balancing a checkbook.

He went on to teach us the mechanics of introducing people to one another. Who is presented to whom: A young person to an older person; a gentleman to a lady.  And inside this wonderful interhuman road trip was the handshake.

You must give a good strong grip, look the other person in the eye… and smile. Sounds easy. Not so easy for me back then. But I weighed in. Eventually everyone in the class shook hands that day.

I would say it is a lot like driving a car. You can know it, but it takes some time and practice to become a good driver.

From Rockland District High School, I entered the 70s world of counterculture informality. What we might call today “the bro shake” became de rigueur around campus, thumbs locking and pulling the pair together.

Cool man!

Right on!

Far out!

I think that about covers it…

Once I landed squarely (so to speak) at 1 Park Drive, I adopted a more Chamber of Commerce style. These were real handshakes with professionals who did it like second nature. This was dress shirt, necktie, sport coat style.

I was going for Jim Rockford.

I was reaching back for my Bill Hopkins decoder ring.

Good grip; look ‘em in the eye. Check.

There is much more to the handshake than the mechanics. The notion itself represents a bond or willingness to reach out.

Your word is your bond.

A handshake agreement.

A handshake indicates you mean what you say.

So, for the most part, it is a very honorable thing. As it should be.

In other cases, it can mean the formalizing of a long process or negotiation. No handshake until the deal is done. A handshake when the sale is completed.

A good handshake is forthcoming when you are sending someone off to another place or adventure. You get a handshake from the dean or principal with your diploma.

There are times though, when a handshake is a disappointment.

A handshake is certainly a step down from a kiss. Or a deal that fails without being bound by a legal document is referred to as “only a handshake and a promise.”

At this stage of my life, I am comfortable shaking hands and am grateful for the chance to reach out to share humanity and good will.

I am giving what I can share.

The older we get, the more we can share.

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Shake Illustration by Glenn Billington